“…And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace…” —Micah 2
“…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him, from generation to generation…” —Luke 1 (The Magnificat)
Jesu that dost in Mary dwell,
Be in Thy servants’ hearts as well,
In the spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy force and stress,
In the very ways that Thy life goes
And virtues that Thy pattern shows,
In the sharing of Thy mysteries;
And every power put under feet
In the Holy Ghost the Paraclete
To the glory of the Father. Amen.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins
Over the years, though I may miss certain scents or settings (like Christmas tree farms), I have grown increasingly grateful to be removed from the clamor of activity that surrounds Christmas in our home country. There is a blessed simplicity in being away from it all that has allowed the beauty and power of Advent to shine all the brighter. Often, as much as we may sense we need it, we humans find it hard to pull away from the things that pull at our attention, or the narratives that vie for our allegiance: at this time of year, it’s usually the purchasing, the parties, the decorating and festivity that in the end often leaves us more frazzled, depleted, overspent and gorged on sugar and stuff than filled with the coming of God.
Being forced to do without much of that can, if we will let it, be an unexpected gift of stillness—to draw back and open ourselves anew to the wonder of God’s gift: his peace, his presence, his abiding love. And it can allow us to look for ways to respond to those gifts in worship as we re-gift them to others through acts of mercy and generosity, becoming the hands and feet of the presence of God within us.
In this final week of anticipation, we join Mary as she pours out her response of praise. Even as her circumstance grows more difficult, she is enlarged by her acceptance and overflows with peace and praise for God’s present action in her life (and through her life—the world). In the mounting days, though there may be increased activity, we can find ways to sit back and be still—to gaze and praise. Even re-reading Mary’s song, the Magnificat and meditating on the present mercies God has shown to you, to others, and magnifying him with your praises.
Like Mary, and so many others, we will receive His love and His peace often in ways and through circumstances far different than we imagine. God’s story is one that usually surprises us, eliciting our praise even as it requires our faith and humble acceptance. May you be blessed as you practice the presence of his peace and love, lived out in your surprising and unexpected days.
O Mighty God, you have done great things and holy is your name; your mercy is for those who fear you from generation to generation. Here I am, O Lord, your servant; let it be with me according to your word. Come Holy Spirit and enlarge your presence in me this day, that I may bring into the world more of your life and more of your love. Amen.